The calf export industry has been thrown into turmoil after British calves infected with bovine TB were exported to Holland.

Dutch farmers are boycotting cattle from the UK after 27 farms in Holland were placed under TB restrictions and 12 cattle tested positive for the disease.

The calves were traced after reactors were found on a British farm which exported the animals in May.

The farms involved contacted DEFRA immediately, who traced the cattle and informed the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture.

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Farmers in the country, which had been free from the disease since 1999, have reacted angrily after they were only told this week about the infection.

The Dutch Farmers Union told Farmers Weekly that traders and farmers had now enforced their own commercial suspension of imports.

“There’s no official decision over an export ban, but farmers and dealers have made a commercial decision to stay away from cattle imported from risk areas,” Frans Van Dongen, DFU director of international affairs, said.

“But you can’t sell UK calves in the Netherlands at the moment. People are too afraid. They want to know what the risks are.”

The news is a blow to UK farmers who have worked to rebuild the calf export trade after a trading ban was lifted in December following last year’s foot-and-mouth outbreak.

In 2007, 64,000 calves were exported from the UK. Of those, 42% went to the Netherlands.

It will also anger farmers who are critical of the government’s policy over controlling bovine TB.

Kim Haywood, National Beef Association chief executive, said the situation was a “catastrophe” for the calf export industry.

“Export agents have had enough, they have lost millions of pounds already,” she said

“If this builds momentum in Europe the consequences could be dire. It would be the end of the trade.

“The government’s inability to deal with the disease has resulted in potential export bans similar to BSE which we spent years trying to resolve.”

 

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